In the last 10 months at Editor-in-Chief, I have overseen reporting on four student deaths. I have received emails marked as urgent and confidential, learnt to report on the loss of my peers, and watched the reaction of UEA’s campus turn from sad to angry.
Students gathered in the square to recognise those we have lost. A petition calling for urgent change to student support reached over 3000 signatures in 24 hours, and at the time of writing, is at over 8000. An increase of 250,000 pounds of investment was put into student support services. All in the last week.
I have uploaded and printed these articles with devastating frequency and honestly, my soul feels tired. Itís the only way I know how to describe it. When I signed up to be a student journalist I hadn’t considered this kind of reporting as part of the job – that I would wait by the lake I celebrated my 19th birthday at for news of a student’s death. Or that only weeks later, there would be another incident involving a student who studied the same course as me.
I cannot imagine the pain of friends and family members who have lost their loved ones. There is nothing I can say or do apart from promise that Concrete will continue to ask questions. We will hold everyone involved in supporting our students to account: the university, student support services and anyone else we can think of. We will report on it all and hope to help bring change.
In our front page story, ‘Pressure on academics to support student mental health reaches ‘intolerable levels’, say Universities Union’, I look at the reaction of academics to the issue of mental health on campus. Over the last week, my tutors began seminars with conversations about our well being and sent emails offering a safe space to talk. Their selflessness is admirable, and unfortunately necessary, but ultimately made me consider – is this really their job? I donít have a conclusive answer but I urge you to read how UEAUCU members have responded.
In Comment, on page 18, Vice-Chancellor David Richardson writes ëWe do need help and support.í When Comment Editor Chris Matthews approached me about asking the VC for an article I was hesitant. Concrete is the student voice, so letting in the voice of a man we often challenge felt like giving in to something I couldnít put a name to. But thatís not the case. The VCís article opens a conversation between staff and students that we must continue at UEA. I invite you to comment on and question his words. I invite you to join the conversation. My inbox is always open for pitches. (email@example.com)
The conversation must continue. While anger is understandable, necessary even, as time passes we must turn our frustration into a constructive force. Rage runs out. It won’t fuel you forever. It burns quickly, erratically, and will darken you in the process. What lasts is change, tangible change, that can only be brought about when we individually take responsibility for bringing it.
Keep the conversation going where ever you can; in your homes, seminars, or the bar. Check in with your loud friend, your quiet friend and your family at home. Following the last few weeks, I have felt the need to hug my loved ones a little tighter for a little longer – Ií’d recommend you do the same.
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